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ACT Independent Senator David Pocock said legislating a strong, independent Environment Protection Agency would be a positive development, but that it would only be effective if Australia’s broken environment laws are comprehensively reformed.

On 8 December 2022 the Environment Minister said “Nature is being destroyed” and that “Things have to change” promising “Stronger laws designed to repair Nature, to protect precious plants, animals and places” and saying that “The legislation will be released as an exposure draft prior to being introduced into the Parliament before the end of 2023.”

That promise has already been broken and sixteen months later we’ve now got an announcement that legislation will be introduced “in coming weeks” that sets up two new authorities, one which will be “independent”.

Senator Pocock said the Environment Minister’s commitment was explicit - the legislation would do more than simply establish an Environment Protection Agency, it would also fix our broken federal environmental laws and protect Nature.

“Our national environment laws have failed to protect Nature on this megadiverse continent we are lucky enough to call home,” Senator Pocock said. 

“Experts are clear that without considered, comprehensive reform destruction of Nature is set to continue.

“We need changes now that will allow a proper assessment of projects like Lee Point and Middle Arm, like fracking the Beetaloo Basin, and the scores of coal and gas projects in the pipeline to ensure decisions take into account climate change, cumulative impact and the true cost to Nature.

“Australians should be able to consider different reforms on their merits and as a whole. 

“Bundling unrelated measures and taking a piecemeal approach to fundamental reform is poor parliamentary process and needs to be called out.

“First we saw a linking of unrelated reforms in the Water Trigger and the Nature Repair Market. Now we are hearing that there could be a decoupling of deeply interconnected reforms like environmental standards and an Environmental Protection Authority.

“I’m concerned the government's commitment to no new extinctions can only remain credible with comprehensive reform and increased funding for threatened species

“Fixing our broken environmental laws is urgent. This reform is overdue and the longer we delay the more Nature is destroyed and the more deeply damaging projects are approved.

“In Sharma v Minister for the Environment the Court found that the Government has a duty of care but that legislation was needed to give effect to that. That’s what my private senator’s bill does and that’s what we need our federal environmental laws to do.

“The Government can’t keep shirking this duty of care to current and future generations. 

“Australians sent the strongest possible message at the last election that they want to see meaningful action, the government risks a lot by threatening to break this trust. 

“Australians love Nature, the incredible landscapes and species that make this place so special, and want to see it cared for and protected.”

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